Private Investor: In search of a growth engine? Just Google it

One of the joys of the new technologies and the liberalisation of retail financial markets is that buying stocks in faraway places is easier – and cheaper – than ever.

For not very much more than you pay to transact business on a company with its primary listing in London, you can now explore the further reaches of equity investment in the United States and Europe.

Take a look at a few on-line brokers' websites to see what I mean. Such are the low fees involved (even less if you take advantage of any of the introductory offers) that the world, so far as investment is concerned, is your oyster.

A little over 20 years ago, before the "Big Bang" reforms in the City and then the internet, buying shares on one of the New York exchanges would have required an investment of some tens of thousands to make it worthwhile – plus a brokerage account at one of the few given a licence to undertake such business. Now the stake is far lower, and you need never speak to a broker.

Symbolically, then, you could follow my lead and buy some shares in chronically undervalued American stocks. Now, the Fed's rate cuts have ensured that they're not quite as cheap as they were, but the US dollar is still a structurally weak currency. Structurally – but not permanently.

I say you can "symbolically" follow the lead, because the US shares that I think are worth picking up are those in Google.

I noticed, as you may have, the headlines this week about Google bursting through the $600 per share mark. In one sense that's nothing to get too excited about, because American stocks are usually "heavy" – that is, that per share they come in at a substantial price tag – but it was an interesting moment.

I mention Google also because I can't see that there is another stock around that combines the great qualities of ubiquity and profitability. Google is used – I don't know – millions of times per second, probably.

By rights, it shouldn't be this way. The internet is a medium where barriers to entry are relatively low – a nightmare for investors.

Once, giant chemical concerns and auto giants could comfort themselves with the notion that at least one competitive edge they could command was their sheer size. Few, if any, new entrants could hope to match the expense of their capital equipment; their distribution networks were similarly hard to replicate from scratch; and the power of the brands could insulate them from interlopers. But all you need to get on the web is a good idea, some software and an internet service provider – no?

So Google "ought" to be one of hundreds of search engines all vying for your attention and exploring new business avenues in a teeming ecology of web enterprise. Yet it isn't. It's just sitting there as the default search engine for almost everyone. Like Hoover, it has become a generic. Maybe that's because the web seems inclined to award its best players a monopoly.

The question, of course, is how long that can last, and I'm afraid I can't offer you anything more than a hunch on that, which is a positive one. My guess is that, one day, someone will indeed come along and usurp Google, just as it usurped others in its time. Yet, for the moment, there doesn't seem to be any sign of that, and people seem inclined to stick with it.

That's immensely powerful, because Google also seems to have cracked the problem of making money on the web, with its carefully and subtly segregated commercial and non-commercial hit lists.

I haven't much idea, to be honest, about the various experiments Google is conducting in other areas. But the fundamental core search-engine business seems to be more soundly based than ever.

When you have a brand this strong in a medium so competitive, then you can only conclude that the company's doing something right. With the dollar so low, too, it's still cheap in pound terms. Look it up on Google if you don't believe me.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?